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Feb 10

Twill on the Rigid Heddle Loom

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twill on the flip

Within the year, a weaver called me at Schacht to ask if it was possible to weave twill on the rigid heddle loom. My reply to her was, yes, it is possible, but not practical.

Now, I must retract my statement and hope that whoever she is might stumble across this entry to discover a new answer. You see, more experience has brought new insight. I feel a little bad about my first response. At the time it was an honest reply, but not a good one. But isn’t this the reason we move forward? Isn’t this the way science or medicine or philosophy work? You practice, you repeat, you evolve. You know more today than yesterday. Or hope to anyway.

I’ve been weaving a lot, every day, usually early in the morning before work, sometimes in the evening after dinner, and many hours over the week end. I’m working on a new rigid heddle book and the more I push this clever, yet simple little wonder-of-a-loom, I make new discoveries almost every time I’m at the loom. My mind is full of, What if…”

I started thinking about twills when I was working on the double weave chapter. If it takes two heddles and two pick-up sticks to weave double weave, which is four different sheds, then certainly I could weave a twill which requires the same number of sheds to complete a pattern. That seemed easy enough.

I worked out this problem by lifting the two heddles one at a time, and then I saw that if I picked up every other warp thread (heddle in down position) with my pick-up stick I created the third shed. The fourth shed presented a problem, as I needed to pick up every other raised thread not picked up before. I had two choices; either re-pick this shed every fourth shot (that seemed like a drag), or use string heddles on a heddle rod. I chose the later.

To do this I made reusable string heddles, picked my shed and installed the heddles by looping my string heddle under each desired warp thread and placing it over the heddle rod. To keep the heddles in place and prevent the rod from sliding out, I placed a strip of masking tape over the top of the rod. Not elegant, but a practical solution.

Weaving proceeds like this:
1. Heddle I (front) up
2. Pick-up Stick A (turned on edge, heddles neutral)
3. Heddle II (rear) up
4. Pick-up Stick B (turned on edge, heddles neutral).

A few more things: thread your two heddles as you would for doubling your sett. To insert your second pick-up stick, just lift up on the heddle bar and slide the stick into place. It is important to make your heddles long enough that they don’t interfere with the shed made by pick-up stick A. I used my rigid heddle reed as my template.

This weaving pattern will yield a 3/1 twill. I’m not sure a 2/2 twill is practical. At least, I’m not sure at this point in time. Should I make new discoveries as I weave merrily along, I’ll let you know. Just as it’s never, never, never a good thing to say “never”, in weaving it’s never, never, never prudent to say “can’t”.

8 Comments

  1. Amelia, belle of The Bellwether
    February 12, 2009 at 4:04 am ·

    Ooh, interesting. I just did a 2/1 twill with 2 heddles, and figured that was “enough” but now I’m intrigued … it would be more obviously a twill if it were 3/1. Thanks for the post!

  2. Crafty Nurse Mary
    February 12, 2009 at 2:04 pm ·

    That’s really clever! Wish you could post some pics of the process and the final product for begginers like me!

  3. Jennifer
    February 23, 2009 at 2:44 am ·

    It was I who asked that question! I will check out your system. Thanks for the followup!

  4. Doreen Tanner
    April 17, 2009 at 12:13 am ·

    Doreen of Vancouver Island — please use pictures of procedures for those of us who are humble but keen beginners.

  5. Anne
    February 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm ·

    I am thrilled to see this twill post. I would like to know how to thread a rigid heddle for a double sett.

  6. francie
    March 7, 2012 at 5:13 am ·

    Could you provide a photo or further explanation of pick up stick B?

  7. Jane Patrick
    September 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm ·

    Dear Francie,
    In twill weave your weft floats over more than 1 warp end.
    These step over each row to create a diagonal line. On the rigid heddle loom using two heddles and two pick-up sticks, you are able to weave 4 unique rows that result in twill. You thread two heddles as usual (see page 191 in The Weaver's Idea Book).

    Weaving proceeds like this:
    Step 1: Heddle I in the up position weaves the first row.
    Step 2: Pick-up stick A weaves the second row (place both heddles in the down position). If you look at the threads along the fell line of your cloth you'll see that they are in pairs. Pick up the leftmost thread of each pair (or every other thread) Step 3: Heddle II in the up position weaves the third row.
    Step 4: Pick-up stick B weaves the fourth row. Again along the fell line, pick up every other thread not picked up on pick-up stick A (this is the right most thread of each pair).

    To prevent having to insert pick-up stick B, you can make string heddles for these threads. These are placed on a heddle rod that stays in place until pick-up stick B is needed. For more see page 98 in The Weaver's Idea Book.

  8. Aztec Star
    December 9, 2013 at 11:02 am ·

    Please post pics or a YouTube.